USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Your junior year in high school will be full of great memories…homecoming, spring break, junior/senior prom, college recruiting. Well, the first 3 most likely will be great memories, but the last one might make you panic a little unless you’re willing to put in a little effort.
Last week we discussed the things you should do as an underclassman to make your recruiting experience a success. This week, let’s talk about your junior year. Your junior year in high school is probably the most critical year in your recruiting journey. This is the year to set the stage to connect with college coaches and the year to be seen. If you took the time to do some of the groundwork as a freshman/sophomore then the recruiting process won’t be too time-consuming. If not, you really need to devote a few hours a month to your college search, because you’ve got some catching up to do…
Here are some specific things you need to get done while you are a junior.
In the Fall
During the first week of class make sure your academic house is in order. That includes making sure you qualify to participate pursuant to the NCAA academic rules and you have the GPA/standardized test score necessary for admission to the colleges you are most interested in.
Use the NCAA Division I & II core course worksheets to be sure you are on track with the core course requirements. Then, if you haven’t done so already, take the SAT or ACT. You really need to take it in the fall so you have time to take it again, if necessary. If you aren’t happy with your first score, a prep course might be a good investment. Think about it this way; the higher your test score, the more colleges you qualify for academically and the more opportunities you will have athletically.
Finally, near the top of your junior year “to do” list should be to register with the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Centers. It only takes a few minutes, but it has to be done. The eligibility centers will verify your amateur status and make sure you are academically prepared for college coursework.
Once your academics are in order, spend some time identifying appropriate colleges and connecting with the coaching staff at those institutions. You have to focus on appropriate (realistic) opportunities or your only athletic opportunities in college will be on the intramural fields. Take the time early in your junior year to meet with your coach to review his or her honest assessment of your abilities. If you laid the groundwork as an underclassman this will be simple and painless. Once you have an idea of the kind of colleges that are realistic, create a favorites list of 20-30 schools you want to pursue.
The next order of business should be to create a highlight video and an athletic/academic resume. Download the video to YouTube or Vimeo. It doesn’t have to be done by a professional and it should only be 2-3 minutes. Your resume should include all your relevant stats and honors, a link to your highlight video and perhaps an endorsement from your current coach. Then reach out to the coaches on your favorites list and attach the resume to any correspondence you send.
Finally, you really need to get your current coach involved as a reference, if possible. Your current coach is the most credible source to vouch for your abilities and character. If your coach is willing to help, ask them to reach out to a few of your favorite colleges. Provide them with your athletic resume and the contact information for the coaches at each college. The easier you make it for your coach, the more willing they will be to help.
In the Spring
After Christmas break, get organized. Keep track of where you stand with each college and send follow up emails to the colleges you haven’t heard back from. If you aren’t generating much interest yet, DON’T PANIC, just step up your efforts and reconsider the colleges you are pursuing.
In January, take 30 minutes to prepare yourself for a conversation with a college coach. Think about what questions you might have and try to anticipate what they might ask you. A good conversation with a coach can go a long way toward earning a scholarship. Take advantage of the opportunity. Here are a few common questions a college coach might ask:
- What are your strengths as a player?
- What are your weaknesses as a player?
- What sets you apart from other recruits/players?
- What would make you a good fit for my school?
- Do you think you are capable of playing at our level?
And here are a few ideas for questions you can ask:
- Does the team have an academic advisor?
- Has your coaching staff evaluated me?
- What do I need to do to earn a spot on your roster?
- How many players are you recruiting at my position?
When you do talk with a college coach, RELAX! Be yourself. Sit up straight. Look them in the eye. Don’t be afraid to answer their questions. They want to get to know you.
Finally, before the semester gets away from you, schedule a few unofficial visits to colleges you are interested in, sign up for any camps or combines that make sense and find a quality summer team. The best summer team for you isn’t necessarily the best team, just be sure you will have a significant role and you will play against quality opponents.
The 3 Ps of recruiting
We’ve covered the most important things you should do during your junior year, but we certainly haven’t touched on everything. Anything you do to start a conversation with a college coach is fine, as long as you follow the 3 Ps of the college recruiting process: Be polite, proactive and persistent.